Online Doctorate in Education

By Nikita Nath

Updated February 10, 2023

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

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Education is an integral part of modern civilization. It adds to the overall growth and development of a person’s character. Over time, the importance of education and the demand for educators have both increased dramatically in the United States.

The online doctorate in education program is meant for educators who wish to pursue careers in education research, administration, and teaching at the postsecondary level, among other things. Some believe that students who pursue a doctorate in education (EdD) are better prepared for careers as principals or superintendents at the K-12 level. In contrast, others believe that students who pursue a Ph.D. in education are better prepared for scholarly research, writing, policymaking, and leadership in higher education. Ph.D. programs in online education provide students with the intense study they seek while also giving them the flexibility they require to handle their other responsibilities.

This comprehensive guide covers all facets of online Ed.D. programs and Ph.D. in education programs. It looks into the top online institutions and universities for Ph.D. education degrees, certifications, careers, courses, timelines, and accreditation and answers a few frequently asked questions.

Best Online Doctorate in
Education Programs

When applying for a Ph.D. degree in education, choosing the most appropriate online program aligned with students’ goals and interests is critical. Selecting a doctoral program that offers a variety of educational specializations is essential, as are some of the most crucial aspects of colleges, such as the quality and experience of the faculty, the institution’s reputation, affordability, student services, research faculties, mentors, and guide for Ph.D. students, the infrastructure, and accreditation, among other things. These factors and others were taken into consideration by numerous FBD teams of experienced professionals when researching some of the best Ph.D. in education programs available in the United States. Here are the best Doctorate in Education programs: *

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to expect from the Online
PhD in Education?

Doctor of Education (EdD) Vs
PhD in Education

Areas of Specialization for Online
Doctorate in Education

Specializations are designed to help individuals differentiate themselves and their expertise. They provide students with the insights and strategies they require to impact the field of education and make a difference beyond the classroom. Choosing a specialization is the best way to align a Ph.D. in education with one’s passions and goals. Here are some specializations students can find in online Ph.D. in education programs:

Ph.D. in Educational Psychology

Educational Psychology covers a wide range of issues, including psychological foundations of learning, cognitive methods for learning in children and adults, developing learning environments, brain research, teacher education, faculty roles, and professional development in a variety of settings. Students of this specialization usually take research courses that will prepare them to apply and produce the most relevant and up-to-date theories and research to improve their own and others’ academic and behavioral success.

Ph.D. in Special Education Online

Special Education trains special education administrators and teachers to advance in research, practice, and policy in the field of special education. This research-based Ph.D. will prepare students for a career in academia more explicitly. Students will gain advanced theoretical and analytical skills, as well as a thorough understanding of the special education field.

Online Doctorate in Advanced Educational Leadership

The Advanced Educational Leadership specialization prepares students for a future in academia through research. Students interested in advancing their careers as educational leaders will learn about strategic planning, program assessment, and successful ways for achieving institutional change while obtaining the information and skills they will need to be good leaders.

Online Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

The Curriculum and Instruction specialization enables practicing educators to study and make improvements in their classrooms or schools. The program is based on sound theory and contemporary research, allowing students to make a substantial impact in the field of education. Students frequently bring problems from their own classrooms and apply what they have learned in the curriculum to fix them.

Online Doctorate in Adult Education

This specialization is heavily research-based and prepares students for leadership roles in adult education. Students learn to investigate teaching and learning theories and approaches that will better prepare them to provide results-oriented programs to adult populations.

Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership & Management

This specialization is ideal for those who want to make a difference in a college setting as a provost or dean. General administration, student affairs, financing/budgeting, higher education systems, research methodologies, law, and community building, are some topics that create in-depth expertise to lead in a college context. Students will be prepared to teach or hold positions of considerable administrative leadership after completing this specialization.

A few examples of other specializations in Ph.D. in education programs include:

  • Learning, Instruction, and Innovation
  • Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Evaluation
  • Educational Policy, Leadership, and Management
  • Reading, Literacy, Assessment, and Evaluation
  • Educational Technology and Design
  • Organizational Research, Assessment, and Evaluation

Why should I do Online Doctorate
in Education?

How to get into an Online Doctorate
Program in Education?

A few basic documents must be submitted to be considered for admission to an online Ph.D. program in education. The mainstays are largely the same across programs despite some differences and variations. Here is a quick look at Ph.D. in education requirements:

  • Application for Admission
  • Application Fee
  • Official Academic Transcripts
  • A minimum of an Undergraduate Degree from an accredited college or university, preferably in education. (A Master’s Degree is usually preferred)
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of above 3.0 in prior academic programs
  • A Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 in graduate-level studies
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores (required by some schools)
  • Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose
  • Professional Resume or Curriculum Vitae 
  • At least 3 to 5 Letters of Recommendation
  • Research-heavy Writing Sample or Essay/s

Application to a Ph.D. in education program may require participating in a group discussion and/or facing an interview before an admissions panel.

How long does it take to get
PhD in Education?

Accreditation for Online Doctorate
in Education

Accreditation assures students and employers that schools and programs meet and surpass strict and expected standards for learning outcomes, curriculum, student services, transparency, financial management, and other factors. Institutional and programmatic accreditation are the two basic types of accreditations. Institutional accreditation is given to a whole school, whereas programmatic certification is given to individual programs within a school. College and program accreditation is essential since it provides credibility to institutions and because employers typically accept degrees from accredited online schools for education.

Any of the six regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) can accredit a university that offers an online Ph.D. in education degree. The six regional accrediting bodies are as follows:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Students can visit the official U.S Department of Education website or CHEA website to check a school’s accreditation status or whether the college they are applying to offers accredited online Ph.D. programs in education.

Academic programs can only be accredited by their subject areas’ standards and best practices through programmatic accreditation, as opposed to regional institutional accreditation. Programmatic accreditation signifies that the academic program follows rigorous standards across all aspects. The following are some of the accrediting bodies that accredit education programs, including the Ph.D. in education:

Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

The Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) promotes justice and excellence in educator preparation by ensuring quality and supporting continual progress in educator preparation. In order to assure transparency, accountability, fiscal efficiency, and high-quality service and assistance, the CAEP conducts frequent examinations and improvements of internal regulations, processes, and procedures.

Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP)

The Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) offers accreditation and quality assurance for formative support and educational assistance for all kinds of educator preparation programs. The AAQEP supports and acknowledges high-quality educator training that enhances educators’ ability to equally serve all students, schools, and communities.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) was founded to assist schools in producing, retaining, and recognizing great teachers while supporting continuous improvement in education. The NBPTS accredits educational programs and confers the most prominent and well-respected teaching qualifications available on the market.

More information on accreditation is available in the Accreditation Guide.

Low Residency Online Doctorate
in Education Programs

Students in online Ed.D. or Ph.D. programs are frequently required to attend in-person residencies, which can last anywhere from one or two days to a week and include orientations, seminars, and other instructional activities. Many schools and universities around the country, on the other hand, offer Ed.D. and Ph.D. in education programs that do not need students to visit campus at any time during their study. Working doctoral students who cannot take time off for residencies or students who cannot travel to campus for other reasons may benefit from these totally online programs. Here are a few examples of low residency doctoral programs education:

Molloy College

The Molloy College offers an Ed.D. program in the low-residency online program track. This track follows the same philosophy, curriculum, and program completion requirements as the blended on-campus program track. The program mainly requires a one-week residency during the summer before the first academic year.

Lesley University

Lesley University has a 45-credit Ph.D. in Educational Studies (individually designed program) with low residency. The program includes 2 on-campus summer residencies of 5-9 days each, with remote coursework between residencies. The university also offers two other programs with varying low residency requirements – the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and the Ph.D. in Human Development and Learning.

Seattle Pacific University (SPU)

The Seattle Pacific University (SPU) offers a Ph.D. in Education low residency (distance education + some on-campus) program, usually requiring a two-week on-campus residency held each summer.

Online Doctorate in Education with
no GRE Programs

Test scores are being phased out of a rising number of advanced degree-level online programs. Schools are looking for students who already have years of experience in their industries, which an entrance exam cannot measure. Many online Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs currently do not need the submission of a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score and instead focus on prior degrees, work experience, completed courses, and Grade Point Average (GPA).

Ed.D. without GRE programs are best for educators who have a lot of expertise and/or who do not do or have not done well in entrance exams. Those who will most likely stand out in other aspects of the application process can confidently apply to online Ed.D. no GRE required programs. Here are a few examples of universities that offer a doctorate in education with no GRE programs:

Capella University

The Capella University School of Public Service and Education offers a Ph.D. in Education with 3 specializations that do not require the GRE score for enrollment.

Gonzaga University

The Gonzaga University School of Education has a 2-year mostly online Doctor of Educational Leadership program that does not require the GRE score to enter the program.

Concordia University, Saint Paul

The Concordia University, Saint Paul, offers an online 64-credit, 3-year, Doctorate in Education (Ed. D.) program with no GRE requirement.

Fully Funded Online Doctorate
in Education Programs

No Dissertation Programs for
Doctorate in Education

To receive their doctorate, the majority of online Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs require students to complete a dissertation. Those who do not want to write a standard research-based thesis, however, have the option of enrolling in an Ed.D. degree online no dissertation. Several programs now allow students to design and implement a capstone project or dissertation-in-practice that is more action-oriented. While these projects also include a significant amount of research and writing, they differ from standard dissertations in that they focus on providing immediate solutions to real problems in education or organizational leadership rather than developing field theory.

Here are a few online doctoral programs in education without dissertation:

Cornerstone University

Cornerstone University offers a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership culminates in a capstone project that students have up to seven years to complete (including the time it takes to complete the courses in the program).

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development has a Doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction Program. Completion requires successful passage of a written capstone and oral defense.

University of Miami

The University of Miami, School of Learning and Human Development, has an Ed.D. program in Applied Learning Sciences that does not require a dissertation. Students are expected to complete a ‘culminating project’ that reflects three areas – Learning, Design, and Assessment.

Accelerated Online Doctorate
in Education Programs

How to Pay for Online Doctorate
in Education Programs?

Free Online Doctorate in
Education Programs

Students must therefore avoid websites that claim to offer free online Ph.D. in education degrees since they may be deceptive. And although free courses will not lead to acquiring a Ph.D. degree in education, they can be a fantastic opportunity to master new skills and broaden one’s educational horizons. The following sites provide free courses for students who want to earn a Ph.D. degree in education:

Course Description Offered by
Education and topics related to EducationCoursera offers several courses on education from both theoretical and applied perspectives. Topics include Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing, Learning Mindsets & Skills, Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology, Positive Psychology: Character, Grit and Research Methods, etc.Coursera
Education and topics related to EducationAlison offers free courses on various topics in education that are self-paced and do not require any previous experience or knowledge. Topics include Diploma in Educational Psychology, Growth Mindsets for Teachers and Learners, Managing Safety and Health in Schools, Principles of Childhood Development, and more.Alison
Education and topics related to EducationUdemy has over 60 education courses ranging from topics like Philosophical and Sociological Perspectives of Education, How to become an Academic Auditor?, Academic Excellence – A System-Based Approach, Raising and Sustaining the Bar of Excellence in Education, etc.Udemy

FAQs about Online Doctorate
in Education Programs

How to get a doctorate in education?

What are the best Ph.D. programs in education?

What can you do with a doctorate in education?

What is the average fee charged by colleges?

Is there a Ph.D. in education online?

How long does it take to get an Ed.D.?

What is the difference between a Ph.D. and a doctorate in education?

What is an Ed.S. degree?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after
Online Doctorate in Education

PhDs are widely sought, particularly in the field of higher education. It is often required for positions such as dean of students or provost in a university or college. According to PayScale, persons with a master’s degree in education earn an average salary of roughly $60,000 a year across the country, whereas those with a Ph.D. in education can earn an average salary of approximately $89,000 each year. While education alone cannot guarantee a successful career, a Ph.D. in education has the potential to significantly increase one’s earning potential, depending on the career path one chooses after graduation.

A Ph.D. in education degree can prepare students to pursue a career as:

  • Educational Policy Expert
  • Education Consultant
  • Provost
  • Chair
  • Admissions Dean or Administrator
  • Provost or Vice President
  • Development Officer
  • Leadership Program Administration
  • Academic Dean
  • Professor
  • Student Services Dean
  • Student Engagement Outreach Specialist
  • Chief Academic Officer
  • Researcher
  • School Administrator
  • Athletic Director
  • Academic Director
  • Faculty/Professor
  • Superintendent
  • Financial Aid Director

Ph.D. in education graduates will usually find work in settings such as:

  • Schools or School Districts
  • Community Colleges or Junior Colleges
  • 4-Year Colleges
  • Universities
  • Research Institutes

Some of the prominent job titles are listed below, along with their typical average annual salaries, as reported by PayScale:

Certifications and Licensing for Online
Doctorate in Education

Additional Resources for Online PhD
in Education Degree

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners. | Page last updated: Dec 2023.